Does My Dog Need to Wear Boots Outside?

by Betty Lewis
    Boots can be especially helpful for a dog in snowy climates.

    Boots can be especially helpful for a dog in snowy climates.

    John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Your pup spends a lot of time on his feet, which are made for getting him over all kinds of terrain, in all sorts of conditions. His pads provide cushioning to protect his bones and joints, protect the tissue in his paws, help him walk on rough ground and provide insulation in harsh weather.

    When you're walking Pal on a nice spring day, there's usually no reason for him to be sporting the latest in dog fashion on his feet. Generally, unless there's particularly harsh terrain or extreme weather, there's no reason to put boots on him when he goes outside. His pads are made to withstand many of the outdoor elements he comes up against and he'll do just fine on his daily walks outside in his bare feet.

    Wintertime can be a different story, depending on where you live. Snow, extreme cold and icing agents can all take their toll on Pal's paws. Your dog can lose heat in cold temperatures, particularly when combined with snow, because a paw surrounded by snow loses heat quicker than a paw on cold ground. One of the problems with snow is the potential for ice balls; snow can cake into the hair under and around your pup's paw pad and cause painful paw issues. Snow and ice can further damage Pal's paws; his toes spread to walk through deep snow, making him vulnerable to cuts and abrasions from rough ice. Deicing agents and other chemicals can irritate his pads. Hot pavement and sand can also be painful for Pal, causing blistering or burns in extreme cases.

    If Pal experiences extreme elements or terrain in his daily walks, it's worth considering boots for protection. Dog boots are normal wear for Alaskan sled dogs and some search and rescue dogs. There's a wide variety of reusable dog boots available in pet supply stores and online. Most have a Vibram or rubber sole to provide some grip and durable protection and a sturdy upper material. Disposable natural rubber boots are available for the dog who only occasionally needs foot protection outdoors. Unlike reusable boots, disposable boots don't have a fastening system and slip on and off easily. If you think Pal needs extra paw protection outside, allow him time to get used to the boots indoors. Walking in boots is a new experience for a dog and he needs to learn how to navigate in the new accessories; it will also allow you to make any adjustments to ensure a proper fit.

    Some dogs simply won't tolerate boots. If that's the case with Pal, yet he still needs some protection, dog paw wax is a great option. The wax gives his pads a protective layer to help repel chemicals he encounters on his walk. Petroleum jelly will also work as a protectant. After Pal frolics in the snow, spend a few minutes examining his pads, looking for ice balls, abrasions, stuck salt or sand, and wash his paws in warm water to get rid of any deicing agents. Generally, you should check his paws regularly to ensure they aren't cracked, dry or have abrasions, cuts, blisters or other irritants that may cause problems later.

    Photo Credits

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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